Part 2 – Glen’s Role
This part of the band’s conclusion is a little tougher to deal with…the role Glen played in the band’s break up. While his “problems” were not the only reasons the Alice Cooper band ended after the South American tour, his substance abuse problems, musical degradation, and perhaps just a desire to leave his band troubles behind – did play a role in the breakup. How much? Well, depending on WHO and WHEN you ask that question, will decide the answer you will get.
Bottom line….Glen screwed up. Why he ended up messing up his life with drugs and alcohol, is beyond my understanding. I grasp the “it’s a sickness” bit, and that people like Glen needed help….but I sure can’t tell you what led him to travel that path. The Nature-Nurture Controversy is in play here. Was Glen destined for the lifestyle he led or did his environment push him that way? Was he weak? Or was he a constant fighter against things he perceived were against him? I don’t know….and I doubt anyone can give you a 100% positive answer on why things turned out the way they did for GB.
Glen was NOT a talented guitarist in the mold of Eric Clapton, nor was he a Lennon-McCartney-type songwriter. But he seemed to have that ability to add to a song a little extra ‘something’, that pushed a song forward. Musicians say that his guitar work meshed well with Michael Bruce’s style and that few bands had a one-two punch on guitar like the AC band. So what happened? Did it get to complicated, too “heavy”, for Glen as the band progressed farther into stardom? Where the drugs and alcohol a blanket he used to hide under, with his fears? Bluntly…could he not keep up, at least in his own mind, musically? Thus the highs and lows mentioned by his bandmates? I’d hate to think Glen ran away from the pressure, at least in a mental sense….but people have run from pressure far less than what GB faced as the band grew in fame and demands for excellence became greater and greater.
I am sure Glen’s bandmates saw him as a friend back in 1974 and I am positive they still do today. As we all do, we wish we could go back in time and change things….but Glen took his path and there is no going back. If he had stayed clean and sober….would the band have stayed together? To me, that is a very, very interesting question to ponder. Unfortunately, a question too which we will never know the answer.
So read the comments below, but keep in mind that there was hopefully no viciousness involved in the responses and that all the people mentioned still hold GB in high regards as a person and a musician. (Bob)
Guitar World Magazine. Originally Published 2008. From article entitled “Babies on Fire” by Jaan Uhelszki
Ezrin: Glen’s lead guitar playing in the early days was remarkable and unique. Okay, his technique wasn’t fantastic, but his musical sensibility was really special. “School’s Out”, for example, was entirely his riff. He walked in with that, and that started the whole ball rolling. But there were signs even before Billion Dollar Babies that Glen had a problem, and it eventually killed him. Glen drank himself to death.
Dunaway: Glen always rebelled against anybody who told him how to do anything. As things progressed, the band was pressured to do things in a short period of time, and we were expected to create hits. And because of that, the record company became authority, and that’s when Glen kind of dropped out.
If you wanted Glen to play a great part, you would say, “Glen, would you like a blue light or a red light?” You know, it was mood: all mood. But as soon as you started telling Glen, “Okay, I need an A minor scale here, and I need that there,” forget it. He had to do it his way or drive you crazy.
Bruce: Glen started doing more drugs and he couldn’t handle it. I tried to help him, but his girlfriend was using too, so it didn’t help.
Ezrin: Things would come up that were difficult to play, and Glen wasn’t quite up for the task. I think he ran away from situations where he felt embarrassed, and he was becoming more and more embarrassed as time went on.
Your problem creates bad performances and your bad performance feeds your problem, and that’s what was going on with Glen. But he’d have moments. He’d have moments of great lucidity and ability and then periods where he just wasn’t useful. On Billion Dollar Babies there were lots of things he was not able to play and had to be played by others, like [session and touring guitarists] Mick Mashbir and Steve Hunter.
Glen & The End
Cooper: Glen was kind of my best friend, and I just watched him disintegrate. I couldn’t get him to concentrate. All of us talked to him about his drinking and drug use, but we just could not pull him out.
Glen would say, “Yeah, yeah, you’re right, you’re right,” but he couldn’t stop. He only felt comfortable when he was getting away with something. Everybody else knew that we had a career to protect, so we faked it as long as we could. We put other guitar players in there, and we did things like that, but we sure didn’t want Glen not to be in it, because everybody loved Glen. He was our Keith Richards.
Mick Mashbir: The band had Shep send me a telegram, that said “URGENT. CALL ASAP.” I called, and Shep said that the band wanted me to play on the new record.
Bruce: We didn’t decide to get another guitarist. Mick was our friend from Arizona, and we needed some more guitars to cover all the parts on Billion Dollar Babies, so we just had him come out and start playing with us. And then the keyboard player Bob Dolan followed, and I liked it because it added a lot of diversity to the group. Bob was a real good piano player.
Mashbir: When I got to the band’s mansion, I immediately went up to Glen’s room. He said, “Mick, what are you doing here?” I said, “I’ve come back to play on the new album.” Glen said, “Cool. Do you want to see my fish?” He had a Blue Oscar fish in his bathtub.
…..I wrote all my own parts on the Billion Dollar Babies album and played just those parts during the tour. Glen played his own parts, and we shared solos on “Billion Dollar Babies” and “Eighteen” with Michael Bruce. On songs like “Elected,” I was the second rhythm guitar player. Michael and I had no problem making our parts mesh, and that left room for Glen to do his thing. I never played the encore of “Under My Wheels” and “School’s Out.” That was all Glen.
Smith: Nobody wanted to give Glen the ax. I mean nobody could. He actually started the band and he taught Dennis how to play, and Alice and Glen and I were buddies through the whole duration of the band. That’s why we took the year off. We couldn’t decide what to do. During that period of time, Mike and I recorded solo albums, which opened the door for Alice to record Welcome to My Nightmare. After that, we were ready to get back together to do the next Alice Cooper group album, and Alice didn’t come back.
Bruce: Mick and Bob broadened our horizon, but in hindsight it probably contributed to Glen’s downhill momentum, because now he didn’t have to hold up the sound of the band. Now there’s another guitar player and a keyboard, so he didn’t have to do anything but stay up late and do whatever he did: mischief, sleep in and not take care of business. Was there a sense it wasn’t working anymore? Yeah, being around Glen was real difficult. It made everything hard, and it wasn’t working like it used to. And it just kind of went downhill from there.
Mashbir: I think that the band was no longer the band Glen had started. He became disillusioned with the direction they had taken and couldn’t really find a place for his unique playing style.
Smith: I always say that we never came to a decision about Glen. Pink Floyd fired Syd Barrett when he became dysfunctional and hired David Gilmour, and that’s what we should have done. Instead, we put a Band-Aid on the situation when we got Mick. Ultimately, I think the band destroyed itself because it couldn’t bring itself to kick Glen out.
(For a different view, by Neal Smith, of the band’s end…read the 2010 interview below.)
A VIEW OF THE BAND’S CONCLUSION FROM NEAL SMITH
A 2010 interview of Neal Smith by a publication called The Gauntlet
The Gauntlet: “Is it one of rocks greatest tragedies that the band went their separate ways?”
Neal: “Everyone has their own idiosyncrasies but we get together and play. The truth to the story is we all took a year off so we could all do solo albums. Warner Brothers was suing us for a new record but after Alice found success with “Welcome to my Nightmare” he continued on his own. Some of the guys in the band wanted to sue him as we owned the band name equally. We worked out an agreement and he wasn’t about to come back. He finished up our contract with Warner Brothers with “Go to Hell” the next album he did. He didn’t come back. He re-nigged on the deal. Don’t ever say the band and everybody went their separate ways, that is the biggest fucking lie in rock n’ roll. It is like four different witnesses at a car wreck, everyone has their own story. Alice tells a story. (my add: band did not want to do theatrics) Give me a fucking break. I was more flashy and into clothes than he ever was. It is an insult to me and theatrics. I had a mirrored covered drum set and it was the hottest drum set in all of rock and roll. I had two Rolls Royce’s, a Bentley and a Jaguar. My whole thing was being flashy, being outrageous, partying and having a good time. Alice has done a great job with the lyrics. He is one of the most underrated lyricists of our time. He writes great lyrics and always has. That is one of the things that put the band over the top with Michael, Dennis and my songs. Everybody in the band was into what we were doing equally. Dennis and Alice were into being flashy just as equally. Anyways, the band broke up, we took a year off and Alice went back on the deal to get back together. that was what happened. There are actually people that don’t believe that is what happened. We were all good buddies. I had to look at things as the only people who get rich in a lawsuit are the attorneys. We had just been through a publishing lawsuit with Frank Zappa and the attorney’s made tons of money and I wasn’t about to do that again. A lawsuit will never make you be friends and record an album again. Everyone would come out as bitter enemies. I didn’t want to do that. Every band breaks up eventually. I was just glad we went out on top instead of playing some dive in Iowa. We went out as one of the top bands in the world. Nothing lasts forever and I wish we kept going. My regrets lie with the fans. I think we let the fans down and that has been my biggest concern. I would still like to do something.” (thus an explanation of the breakup with Glen’s role playing a lesser part?)
PS: Dennis Dunaway’s book, Snakes, Guillotines, and Electric Chairs, has several excellent sections about Glen’s trials and tribulations, along with some just plain old funny stories about Glen. I highly recommend it for anyone looking for a good and interesting view of Glen Buxton.
Disclaimer: Except for the quoted interviews by band members, what is written above are just my thoughts and opinions. I have no first hand knowledge of events and I am sure there are many out there that know more than I do on this subject – INCLUDING the four surviving members of the original band. So…if you disagree, that is fine. Don’t blow a gasket. Read Dennis’ or Alice’s or Michael’s books (maybe Neal’s someday) and go with their views….they know best.
You can try this “reason” on for size if you’d prefer. I found it as part of an LA Times article written about Alice on March 2, 1975.